We are improving public trust in the global finance industry  
through our Fellows' leadership.

The Aspen Institute's Finance Leaders Fellowship develops a community of enlightened leaders to chart the course of the global finance industry. Fellows strengthen their companies' cultures, look for ways to improve system stability, and innovate to ensure global financial inclusion.

Using the Aspen Institute method of text-based dialogue, building a strong community of Fellows, and leveraging the Institute's commitment to high-integrity, action-oriented leadership, the program inspires selected Finance Fellows to consider values and perspectives necessary for effective, enlightened leadership in financeand in society at-large. Fellows also undertake a leadership venture of their own, designed to challenge themselves and advance the role of finance in society. See a list of all the Finance Leaders Fellows here.

The Fellowship Experience:

  • Engages Fellows in a thought-provoking journey of personal exploration and understanding of what their definition of "the good society" is
  • Forges a global network of finance leaders deeply committed to each other and the betterment of society
  • Encourages Fellows to reflect on the historical importance of finance in well-functioning societies and current challenges in the sector, inspiring them to play an active role in shaping its future

Pillars of the Fellowship

Developing Leaders

The Finance Leaders Fellows attend a series of four seminars where they reflect on their own role and responsibility as leaders. In each seminar, they discuss different themes: challenges of leadership, their role in creating the “good society,” complexities of leading in the global community, and legacy through leadership ventures.

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Building Community

The Fellowship encourages a community where Fellows challenge and support one another for life. These Fellows include senior or executive leaders in the broad finance ecosystem, from savers and users, to intermediates and stewards of capital. Finance Leaders Fellows are also part of the larger Aspen Global Leadership Network (AGLN), a world-wide community of successful, high-integrity, entrepreneurial leaders committed to making the world a better place. 
Finance Leaders Community
AGLN Network

Taking Action

An integral part of the program is undertaking a Leadership Venture by each of the Fellows - a chance to put values into action. They aim to reconnect finance and society by charting the future course of the industry and using the power of their platforms in finance to address societal issues.

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The Fellowship

Fellows must be nominated by a third party and selected by the Aspen Institute to participate in the program. Each class will consist of 22 Fellows who will participate in four seminars of 5-7 days each under the guidance of the skilled moderators of the Institute. Fellows must commit to attending all 4 seminars in their entirety, for a total of approximately 26 days of seminar meetings. They also must commit to designing and launching a required leadership venture of their own design to advance the role of finance in society. The Fellows' participation will be without cost to them or their organizations, with the exception of their travel costs and any incidental expenses they incur. Limited financial assistance may be provided for travel on a case by case basis.

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Nomination Information

Ideal candidates are senior or executive business leaders in the broad finance ecosystem, from savers and users, to intermediates and stewards of capital. Learn more about becoming a candidate by reviewing the guidelines and watching videos of Fellows sharing their experiences.
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Are you a nominator or candidate with questions about the process? Read our FAQs. 
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Fellows in Program

About the Finance Leaders Fellowship

The 2007-2008 financial crisis that centered on the U.S. banking and credit sec¬tors led to devastating global economic and human dislocation and an erosion of societal trust in the finance industry. The negative societal outcomes from some of the industry’s unsustainable business practices leading up to the credit crisis highlighted the important role that the industry plays in society, in this case as a driver of instability. 

Yet over time, the finance industry has also been a force for good, providing many people a shot at prosperity, progress, and stability with its innovations such as pensions, mutual funds, savings accounts, mortgage credit and insurance. This was the paradox that the Aspen Institute’s Henry Crown Fellow Ranji Nagaswami was contemplating when she founded the program with Christopher Varelas and the CFA Institute in 2016. 

The Fellowship’s founding executive director, Jennifer Simpson, built a strong foundation over the first five years. With 82 Fellows operating in 20 countries at the time of the program’s leadership succession, Fellows were committed to each other in service of making impact, were taking bold action to improve trust in the industry, and had begun to work collectively as a Fellowship on key societal issues leveraging the finance industry. 

CFA Institute         Invesco QQQ


Kara Gustafson, Executive Director
Kara Gustafson is the Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s Finance Leaders Fellowship. The Finance Leaders Fellowship is building a global community of Finance leaders who are committed to creating a more just, free, and equitable society globally.  Kara has a 19-year track record of creating and leading best-in-class initiatives across a $2 billion portfolio of programs that have driven transformative results for well-known organizations across Social Impact, Philanthropy, Diversity Equity & Inclusion, and Environmental Responsibility.  Previously, Kara founded Palais Impact Advisors, a social impact advisory firm to Fortune 500 and Pre-IPO companies. Before Palais Impact, Kara served as the first Head of Community Impact at SoulCycle, leading the design and launch of a new Impact platform and Diversity & Inclusion initiatives. She also worked for 15 years at Goldman Sachs, where she helped launch and scale initiatives, including 10,000 Women and 10,000 Small Businesses, to drive economic growth, inclusion and opportunity through the firm’s Impact Investing business and Corporate Engagement programs. Kara is Director on the board of Paid Leave for the United States, and a graduate of Fairfield University, where she is now an Advisory Council Member for the Management Program at the Dolan School of Business. She also hosts and produces “Impact Studies with Kara Gustafson,” -- a leading interview series on social impact where she brings together a diversity of innovative social impact and business leaders to share best practices and original research. 

Jennifer Vogt, Senior Program Manager
Jennifer Vogt is a senior program manager for the Aspen Finance Leaders Fellowship. Throughout her career, Jennifer has been committed to fostering public dialogue around reshaping finance for good and engaging future thought and business leaders to think differently about how market economies work. Prior to joining Aspen, she worked as part of the Ashoka Social Financial Services team to facilitate some of the most powerful market-based structural innovations happening in the world today. Jennifer earned her PhD in Anthropology from Vanderbilt University for research on development programs promoting social entrepreneurship and cultural heritage among artisan producers in Peru. She received a B.A. in Sociology/Anthropology and Spanish from Transylvania University in Kentucky.

Ashley Sillaro, Senior Program Associate
Ashley Sillaro is a senior program associate for the Aspen Finance Leaders Fellowship (FLF). She manages Fellowship operations and plans and coordinates seminars and special events, including the coordination of Spotlight Finance, FLF's collective action convening. Prior to joining the Aspen Institute, she worked in meeting and event planning at the Institute of International Education and the American Red Cross. Ashley holds a bachelor's degree in international studies from the School of International Service, American University in Washington, D.C.

Clarke Fox, Program Associate
Clarke Fox serves as the Program Associate for the Finance Leaders Fellowship. Prior to joining the Aspen Institute, Clarke worked as a campaign field organizer during the 2020 election cycle, initially in New Hampshire with the Warren for President campaign and later in eastern Kentucky with the McGrath for Senate campaign. Before his work in electoral organizing, Clarke spent three years as an executive search consultant at Spencer Stuart. A member of the firm’s North America Financial Officer Practice, he supported and led Chief Financial Officer and senior-level finance searches for corporate clients across industries, with a concentration in financial services and consumer goods. Originally from Philadelphia, Clarke graduated from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA with a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science and was a four-year letter winner on Bucknell’s Division-I men’s soccer team.

For more information about the Fellowship, contact Ashley Sillaro.